Imagine being dropped off at the road far away from anywhere in particular, then taking a Tuk-Tuk along a dirt road full of potholes to the middle of nowhere, and then a boat up a river to a place that isn’t even accessible by road.
Approach to Muang Ngoi
You end up in a sleepy town that has only one street, surrounded by mountains and rice fields. This village is called Muang Ngoi, and there is not really much to do except walking through the countryside and visit some villages of ethnic minority tribes, which will keep you entertained for one day, but apart from that it is the ultimate place to relax.
Some unnamed tribal village in the area
Until a few years ago, the village had only electricity for 6 hours a day. Nowadays there is the luxury of electricity all day, but still it feels like the village goes to sleep as soon as the sun sets. For people who don’t want to go to bed at 8 pm there are 1 or 2 nice bars that are open when its dark, though the bartender might be sleeping behind the bar and you have to wake him up to get a drink.
Sunset in Muang Ngoi
View from my balcony
The place where you started with the boat is Nong Khiaw. Actually it is just a tiny village a few kilometers down the same river. But compared to Muang Ngoi it feels almost urban, with paved roads and a bridge connecting the two parts on both sides of the river. The setting is not less beautiful than Muang Ngoi, surrounded by limestone mountains on all sides that have small caves and viewpoints on top with great views of the area.
Viewpoint in Nong Khiaw, just after sunrise
There are surprisingly many good restaurants and travel agencies where you can book activities like caving, kayaking or trekking. But actually it is already enough to lie in a hammock for the day and enjoy the view on the river and mountains, and then go to the bridge to see the best sunset you can imagine.
View from my hammock
Sunset in Nong Khiaw
I really couldn’t rave enough about how beautiful Laos in general and these villages in specific are. This area is still a quite touristic place though – there are far fewer people than in Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng, but it is still firmly on the backpacker trail. And since the local population is so small, it sometimes feels like there are more tourists than locals and that every second house is either a guest house or a travel agency. So it is not the ideal place if someone wants to discover the “real” Laos (whatever that is exactly) – but I still highly recommend to go to this place to anyone who visits Laos.